New Laptop

So, I bought a new laptop and it’s just about working. It’s a Toshiba L70-A-04g, which was the best option I could find in a local store. Mostly because of the 17″ screen, because I wanted something that would fit more text than the old 15″, but also because it has a HDD cover underneath, while the 15″ models I looked at typically required removing sixteen screws and then pushing a credit card in around the edge to unlatch the entire base.

It kind of works. I removed the Windows 8 HDD and installed my Linux SSD from the old laptop, then configured the BIOS to legacy boot, and… ended up at a black screen. Mint 16 doesn’t understand the backlight, so I had to add acpi_backlight=vendor to the boot command.

Unfortunately it also doesn’t work properly with the HD4600 Intel video driver. In the past, buying a machine that’s all-Intel has been the safest option, but not here. There’s a lot of video corruption as the driver starts, and some flickering pixels at the top of the screen. I suspect it’s a video timing bug that’s been fixed in the 3.15 kernel, but that won’t hit Mint for several months. The other option is to run in VESA mode, but then you’re stuck with software rendering and the CPU running flat out for video playback.

The touchpad is abysmal, for some reason they’ve combined the mouse buttons into the touchpad, they take a heck of a force to click, and, if you click one while your finger is on the touchpad, you have to lift your finger and put it back down to get the touchpad to recognize it again. The old one was far better.

Posted in Computers, Linux | Leave a comment

Libreoffice crashing

So, it appears Libreoffice is now crashing regularly for no obvious reason, with a segmentation fault in libmergedlo.so; it seems to be a known bug that’s been around for months with no fix. This is particularly annoying because I save the file, do something, it crashes, and, when I restart it, the file I load is not the one I saved.

Since it’s crashed three times in the last fifteen minutes, this makes writing pretty damn tiresome right now. I presume it’s somehow graphics driver related, because it didn’t happen on the old laptop, but happens regularly on this one. That said, it’s also happened on my desktop machine at work.

Someone suggested uninstalling Java, and, since I did that, it hasn’t crashed. Which is weird, because I had the Java integration disabled before then. It may just be a coincidence.

Posted in Linux | Leave a comment

Something To Take On The Trip

It’s out now. As mentioned before, I have two short stories in this charity anthology:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JD41Z3K

Posted in Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Honda.ca sucks

Time to buy a new car soon, before my girlfriend’s Buick hits twenty years old. So I went to take a look at the current price of the Civic, in case we decide to buy one.

So far:

* The web page has no scroll bar, so the right-hand edge is impossible to reach on a small screen.
* The ‘build and price’ appears to be some Flash crap, which brings up a box on Linux saying ‘an error occurs’.
* The ‘build and price’ doesn’t work at all on Android, because there’s no Flash.
* I haven’t tried it, but the ‘build and price’ probably doesn’t work at all on the iPad, because there’s no Flash.
* There’s no contact email to ask if they realize this.

Who designed this web site? Why did they make one that apparently only works on Windows?

Posted in Technology | Leave a comment

Something To Take On The Trip

Book cover

I have two (very) short stories in a charity anthology: Something To Take On The Trip. This is the third in a trilogy of short story anthologies for charity, and this time includes stories by David Gerrold and a couple of other SF writers you may have heard of. The stories are in multiple genres and intended for a quick read on the bus or train.

Take a look and buy a copy when it comes out in a few days.

Posted in e-Books, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Thank God for the EU

I’m so glad to see that, while the economy collapses around them, the EU can still find time to… mandate a universal smartphone charger.

So, we’ll be stuck with Micro-USB chargers until the EU goes bust. which, fortunately, probably won’t take long.

Posted in EU politics, Technology | Leave a comment

Planet Of The Apes Blu-Ray

So, I happened to spot my Planet Of The Apes (60s/70s version) Blu-Ray collection lying under the cupboard and thought I’d watch the first movie.

What I’d forgotten was that it doesn’t work. The disk starts, there’s an animated ape, then a log, then it goes to a black screen with all the buttons disabled.

I remember there was a way to get past that, but can’t remember what it was. I tried numerous buttons, but nothing worked. Then I tried for about the fifth time, and suddenly I was at the main menu; the only thing I did differently was keep hitting the skip button, but maybe that was a coincidence.

Does anyone know how to make this disk actually play? This kind of crap is why I rarely buy Blu-Rays any more.

Edit: this time, pressing ‘Top Menu’ on the remote when the ape started speaking seemed to do it. I suspect, though, it’s just random, so sometimes it gets through the animated menu startup and sometimes it doesn’t.

Posted in Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Tufty Bear

Tufty by the wheel.

Tufty in the travel cage.

New Hamster has now become Tufty Bear, or Tufty for short, mostly because her long hair makes her look like a bear, and the longer tufts on her butt and behind her ears. For a while, we had to keep her in the small travel cage, because, any time we put her in the big cage, she’d climb up onto the balcony and jump off. However, we eventually decided we should remove the balcony and hammock so she could just live in the bottom. That seems to have calmed her down somewhat, and we don’t often see her performing acrobatics.

Yes, that is spaghetti. I’ve never found a hamster who wouldn’t drop most of their other foods for a piece of spaghetti, and have no idea why.

Posted in Pets | Leave a comment

Hamster Expeditions

The corner table by the sofa in our living room is like the North-West Passage to hamsters. They’re all determined to find a way through there in their exercise ball, even though it’s the corner where we dump all the stuff that we want to get out of the way temporarily and there’s no gap large enough to fit through.

If we don’t hear them running for a few minutes and can’t find them, they’re usually stuck somewhere under the table.

Posted in Pets | Leave a comment

Poor Nation

Kerry decries ‘new isolationism’, says U.S. acts like poor nation

No, it’s acting like a socialist nation, which is exactly what the US government has been turning it into over the last few decades.

A nation where people are expected to work for a living can afford a big war budget. A nation which puts a vast fraction of its GDP into a welfare state cannot. There’s a reason the British Empire collapsed after WWII, and that reason is the British welfare state; now America is heading down the same path.

Which isn’t a bad thing, in a way. Since WWII, most other Western nations have cut back on defence and bloated their welfare states because they can rely on America to protect them. If the US Navy is no longer at their beck and call, they’ll have to start looking seriously at real defence measures. For example, a nation which expects others to defend it can afford to ban guns… a nation which expects its people to have to defend it cannot.

Posted in Politics, US politics | Leave a comment

Twilight Raid

My weird libertarian Halloween story, Twilight Raid, is going to be in a charity anthology with David ‘Trouble With Tribbles’ Gerrold, amongst others. I wrote it back in the 90s, but never found a market for it, and rewrote it for the anthology; the basic idea is still there, but I think only the first line hasn’t changed.

Posted in Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Rhythmbox

Pause and restore now actually works again in Linux Mint 16. Which is useful; I no longer have to exit and restart every time I need to stop the music for a moment.

Posted in Linux | Leave a comment

We’re Saved!

After years of economic stagnation due to the bursting of the bubble of cheap credit created by central banks holding interest rates artificially low, the G20 has decided that what we really need is economic growth:

G20 meeting targets an additional 2% economic growth

Now, if only they had any idea of how to actually create economic growth, rather than just printing money and handing it to bankers…

Posted in Political stupidity, Politics | Leave a comment

A New World Of Pizza

The US Army have created a pizza that lasts three years in storage. That could come in handy :) .

Posted in Technology | Leave a comment

Linux Mint 16 take 2

Looks like the NFS and slow login issue is due to NFS now requiring GSSD. I seem to have solved it by setting ‘NEED_GSSD=yes’ in /etc/default/nfs-common on both client and server, and rebooting both.

The Cardo issue appears to be a problem with the font. I found a bug related to it on Red Hat:

Cardo font unusable, badly displayed

Using Fontforge to edit the OS/2 Metrics to the values specified there, and similar values for the bold font, appears to have solved the problem. The italic font appears to always have been OK.

Posted in Linux | Leave a comment

Linux Mint 16

Finally got around to upgrading from 15 as it’s now end of life. I tried the suggested method to upgrade without having to reinstall:

Upgrade Linux Mint 15 (Olivia) to Linux Mint 16 (Petra)

But that failed horribly. The system would boot, but the MDM couldn’t find its theme; I could log in from a console and start the X server myself, but half the MATE applets were missing. Any attempt to fix it by uninstalling MATE and reinstalling ran into a load of conflicts.

So, eventually, I gave in and just reinstalled from scratch.

Three things I’ve noticed so far:

1. Logging in takes about ten times as long as before.
2. Automounter takes about ten seconds to mount an NFS partition.
3. Cardo font is completely screwed up in LibreOffice 4.1. I suspect this is a known bug that’s fixed in 4.2, so I’m going to have to manually install that.

Nope, Cardo is hosed. I’ve had to fight through all the crap required to setup a bugzilla account, and report the bug:

Bugzilla

Posted in Linux | Leave a comment

Columbia Debris

Interesting set of photos of a NASA exhibition of Columbia space shuttle debris. Particularly the tile melted from beneath, showing substantial heating from inside the wing:

Flickr

(From Wayne Hale’s blog)

Posted in Space | Leave a comment

Scooby Doo Meets Cthulhu

One of my favourite fan fiction stories: I read it years ago and came across it again online recently:

THE LAST TESTAMENT OF DAPHNE PICKMAN

Posted in Horror | Leave a comment